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Tuesday, September 23, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 11/20/2005

Freshman gets lesson in 'civility'

Dear Jean Schmidt,

Hoo boy! Heard about your big dust-up Friday.

You are, as many news stories yesterday noted, a Republican who is the most junior member of the House. That's because you won a special election in the summer in the Ohio 2nd Congressional District (defeating an Iraq war veteran no less).

You are such a newbie that, according to the Washington Post, some of your colleagues don't even know your name. How exciting it must have been to witness your party's attempt to one-up the Democrats! The GOP figured, what better way to let Dems hang themselves than by forcing a vote on a proposal by one of their own - John Murtha, the Pennsylvania congressman (and U.S. Marine Corps vet of Korea and Vietnam) who the day before called for withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

The Dems, including Congressman Murtha, didn't fall for the trap - but oh, how such partisan gamesmanship ended in uproar! I wonder if, when you got the floor Friday around 5:20 p.m., some of your colleagues might have said to one another, "Now, who exactly is that person, again?"

Well, no one wonders now.

You rose and told the House how you'd just hung up the phone with Danny Bubp, a GOP Ohio House rep from West Union and a Marine reservist.

"He asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course," you relayed. "He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message: that cowards cut and run, Marines never do."

Holy Lack of Respect and Civility! Before you could even arrange your face in some kind of self-satisfied smirk, dozens of Democrats went off like firecrackers. As the Washington Post recounted, "For a moment [Congressman] Schmidt tried to keep speaking, but the uproar continued, and several GOP colleagues surrounded her as she sat down, looking slightly dazed." At 5:31, when order was finally restored, [Ms.] Schmidt rose again and said softly, "My words were not directed at any member of the House" She asked that they be withdrawn from the record.

Now, I can't claim to know a whole lot about the inner workings of the U.S. House of Representatives. But then, as a newcomer, neither can you.

Still, I'm sure you underwent orientation, and I can't help but wonder: Didn't someone tell you somewhere along the line that whenever you start a new job - any job - it pays to hold your tongue so you can watch and learn?

Ah, but for that matter, maybe you have watched and learned; maybe Friday afternoon was just a demonstration of all you've absorbed since arriving in Washington.

It's been a long time since arms reached across the aisle to shake hands at the end of the day. It's been a long time since partisanship took a back seat to civility. It's been a long time since politicians were willing to exchange ideas, not talking points. If perhaps you overdid it, violating the letter of some unwritten law governing congressional conduct, well, no one can really say you broke the spirit of that law.



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